Greek Life at Sewanee: We are not rushing towards equality

By Max Saltman
Executive Staff

Rush has ended, and with its raucous demise on Shake Day comes pledgeship’s bittersweet beginning. It’s hard to believe that Sewanee will soon see the spring sunlight dance across the shavèd scalps of well-dressed young men insisting that no, they weren’t hazed, they did it themselves! While this image in itself is incredibly interesting, the cognitive dissonance that goes into torture hazing is a subject for another column, I’m afraid. Instead, I’d like to talk about rush.

Both men and women wishing to join Greek organizations attend the mandatory house visits guided by Rho Chis, going from frat to frat and sorority to sorority over the course of two nights. After house visits, men return to the fraternities (or a singular fraternity, if they’re that confident) they’d like to join. During bid sessions, usually directly following the end of return house, fraternities issue bids to male students, inviting them to join their fraternity. Male students pick up their bid cards before Shake Day, decide which frat to rush, then shake hands with a member of that fraternity the next day at 3 p.m.

For women, it’s more complicated. Female students return house on the same night as the men, but they are required to return to at least four. Then, they must fill out preference cards ranking the sororities they visited. These are used later, during bid-matching. While fraternity bid sessions are often held the same night as return house, sorority bid sessions often happen the night after. This is because the sororities don’t actually issue bids directly until after bid-matching sessions. Bid-matching is a labyrinthine process best described as a kind of “girl-auction.” Names of rushees are read alphabetically, and sorority representatives raise a sign with their organization’s letters for the girls they want. If the girls highest choice raised their placard, she will receive a bid from that sorority. If the girls second choice, but not her first, raised their sign, she’ll get a bid from her second choice and so on and so forth. Ultimately, girls only get one bid, which is slipped under their door the morning of Shake Day. If she doesn’t like the bid she got, tough. She’ll have to either hold her nose and join an organization she doesn’t want, or wait until the next rush cycle to try again.

In my opinion, there is no reason why the rush process should be so complicated for women and so uncomplicated for men. While there are likely historical reasons for this difference, honestly, I really don’t care. I’ve gone over possible reasons why the differences between male and female rush are positive, and I simply can’t find any besides “Change is difficult and I’m lazy.” Listen: I understand that men and women are different. That isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just reality. But I’m pretty sure that natural differences between the sexes don’t extend into how men and women should choose members for their Greek organizations.

The current system is almost comically unfair to women. Women receive their lone bid card underneath their door on the morning of Shake Day; dudes can go and pick theirs up the day before, and oftentimes it’s more than one bid. While men get to choose where to go on Shake Day, if a woman doesn’t like sorority she got, she has to wait until the next rush cycle. It seems needlessly cruel, stressful, silly, and time-consuming for something as ephemeral as Greek life.

Additionally, there is the time that sororities must spend during the bid-match process in addition to the regular bid-sessions, which both fratboy and sratgirl alike can agree, are similar to a mixture of congressional debate and anesthesia-free brain surgery. Granted, only a few women from each sorority are required to attend the bid-matching sessions, but why should a few active members suffer to maintain a system whose existence has outlived its usefulness?

Bottom line: I think that if there is a chance to treat men and women equally, communities should take it. This is especially true for Greek life, a community whose entire existence rests on delineating differences between the sexes. In the case of rush, female students and male students should go through the same process. Are men and women really so different that their Greek organizations require an entirely different way of gaining new members? I don’t think so. If you do, I encourage you to email me at saltmmw0@sewanee.edu, so I can throw your email in the trash without reading it.

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